Friday, January 14, 2011

Experian warns smartphone users to smarten up

LONDON, UK: Experian has warned smartphone users may be risking the security of their identity if they store sensitive information on their phones and use unsecure Wi-Fi networks to get online. This is according to new research by ProtectMyID, Experian's identity-protection service.

According to this latest research:
- Nearly two thirds (65 percent) of smartphone users send and store e-mails on their phones – even if these include sensitive information such as receipts and credit card details from shopping online.

- More than half (53 percent) of smartphone users access social networking sites from their phones. This could easily reveal key pieces of information like names, dates of birth and other details commonly used as passwords for online banking and other accounts, such as first school or place of birth.

- Nearly one third (29 percent) of smartphone users take advantage of public Wi-Fi hotspots (often found in city centres, used whilst having a break from the shops) which are unsecure and highly vulnerable to electronic eavesdroppers.

- Of these, one in five (19 percent) say they conduct online banking while using public Wi-Fi, risking their accounts, PINs and passwords.

The Home Office found that mobile phone identity fraud, rose by three quarters (74 percent) in the first half of last year* but more than half of the smartphone users who took part in the Protect My ID survey were completely unaware of the problem.

"The personal information on an average smartphone is like gold dust to an ID thief and many of us could be putting this on a plate by using public Wi-Fi networks," said Peter Turner, MD of Experian Interactive. "A criminal can use this information to masquerade as the phone's owner, drain his or her accounts, run up debts in their victim's name and even open new accounts.

"Often, the first people know about it is when they receive a demand for payment for services they haven't used or for an account they have never heard of. We've certainly seen cases where criminals have changed the address of the smartphone, ordered new handsets and run up huge bills."

As many as 10,000 smartphones are also stolen every month, according to Metropolitan Police, so it really makes sense for users to take sensible identity protection precautions to keep their personal information safe.

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